Henry Fielding. (17071754). The History of Tom Jones.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
Book VII. Containing Three Days
VII. A Strange Resolution of Sophia, and a More Strange Stratagem of Mrs. Honour
THOUGH Mrs. Honour was principally attached to her own interest, she was not without some little attachment to Sophia. To say truth, it was very difficult for any one to know that young lady without loving her. She no sooner therefore heard a piece of news, which she imagined to be of great importance to her mistress, than, quite forgetting the anger which she had conceived two days before, at her unpleasant dismission from Sophias presence, she ran hastily to inform her of the news.
The beginning of her discourse was as abrupt as her entrance into the room. O dear maam! says she, what doth your laship think? To be sure I am frightened out of my wits; and yet I thought it my duty to tell your laship, though perhaps it may make you angry, for we servants dont always know what will make our ladies angry; for, to be sure, everything is always laid to the charge of a servant. When our ladies are out of humour, to be sure we must be scolded; and to be sure I should not wonder if your laship should be out of humour; nay, it must surprize you certainly, ay, and shock you too.Good Honour, let me know it without any longer preface, says Sophia; there are few things, I promise you, which will surprize, and fewer which will shock me.Dear maam, answered Honour, to be sure, I overheard my master talking to parson Supple about getting a licence this very afternoon; and to be sure I heard him say, your laship should be married to-morrow morning. Sophia turned pale at these words, and repeated eagerly, To-morrow morning!Yes, maam, replied the trusty waitingwoman, I will take my oath I heard my master say so.Honour, says Sophia, you have both surprized and shocked me to such a degree that I have scarce any breath or spirits left. What is to be done in my dreadful situation?I wish I was able to advise your laship, says she. Do advise me, cries Sophia; pray, dear Honour, advise me. Think what you would attempt if it was your own case.Indeed, maam, cries Honour, I wish your laship and I could change situations; that is, I mean without hurting your laship; for to be sure I dont wish you so bad as to be a servant; but because that if so be it was my case, I should find no manner of difficulty in it; for, in my poor opinion, young Squire Blifil is a charming, sweet, handsome man.Dont mention such stuff, cries Sophia. Such stuff! repeated Honour; why, there. Well, to be sure, whats one mans meat is another mans poison, and the same is altogether as true of women.Honour, says Sophia, rather than submit to be the wife of that contemptible wretch, I would plunge a dagger into my heart.O lud! maam! answered the other, I am sure you frighten me out of my wits now. Let me beseech your laship not to suffer such wicked thoughts to come into your head. O lud! to be sure I tremble every inch of me. Dear maam, consider, that to be denied Christian burial, and to have your corpse buried in the highway, and a stake drove through you, as farmer Halfpenny was served at Ox Cross; and, to be sure, his ghost hath walked there ever since, for several people have seen him. To be sure it can be nothing but the devil which can put such wicked thoughts into the head of anybody; for certainly it is less wicked to hurt all the world than ones own dear self; and so I have heard said by more parsons than one. If your laship hath such a violent aversion, and hates the young gentleman so very bad, that you cant bear to think of going into bed to him; for to be sure there may be such antipathies in nature, and one had lieverer touch a toad than the flesh of some people.
Sophia had been too much wrapt in contemplation to pay any great attention to the foregoing excellent discourse of her maid; interrupting her therefore, without making any answer to it, she said, Honour, I am come to a resolution. I am determined to leave my fathers house this very night; and if you have the friendship for me which you have often professed, you will keep me company.That I will, maam, to the worlds end, answered Honour; but I beg your laship to consider the consequence before you undertake any rash action. Where can your laship possibly go?There is, replied Sophia, a lady of quality in London, a relation of mine, who spent several months with my aunt in the country; during all which time she treated me with great kindness, and expressed so much pleasure in my company, that she earnestly desired my aunt to suffer me to go with her to London. As she is a woman of very great note, I shall easily find her out, and I make no doubt of being very well and kindly received by her.I would not have your laship too confident of that, cries Honour; for the first lady I lived with used to invite people very earnestly to her house; but if she heard afterwards they were coming, she used to get out of the way. Besides, though this lady would be very glad to see your laship, as to be sure anybody would be glad to see your laship, yet when she hears your laship is run away from my master You are mistaken, Honour, says Sophia: she looks upon the authority of a father in a much lower light than I do; for she pressed me violently to go to London with her, and when I refused to go without my fathers consent, she laughed me to scorn, called me silly country girl, and said, I should make a pure loving wife, since I could be so dutiful a daughter. So I have no doubt but she will both receive me and protect me too, till my father, finding me out of his power, can be brought to some reason.
Well, but, maam, answered Honour, how doth your laship think of making your escape? Where will you get any horses or conveyance? For as for your own horse, as all the servants know a little how matters stand between my master and your laship, Robin will be hanged before he will suffer it to go out of the stable without my masters express orders. I intend to escape, said Sophia, by walking out of the doors when they are open. I thank Heaven my legs are very able to carry me. They have supported me many a long evening after a fiddle, with no very agreeable partner; and surely they will assist me in running from so detestable a partner for life.Oh Heaven, maam! doth your laship know what you are saying? cries Honour; would you think of walking about the country by night and alone?Not alone, answered the lady; you have promised to bear me company.Yes, to be sure, cries Honour, I will follow your laship through the world; but your laship had almost as good be alone: for I should not be able to defend you, if any robbers, or other villains, should meet with you. Nay, I should be in as horrible a fright as your laship; for to be certain, they would ravish us both. Besides, maam, consider how cold the nights are now; we shall be frozen to death.A good brisk pace, answered Sophia, will preserve us from the cold; and if you cannot defend me from a villain, Honour, I will defend you; for I will take a pistol with me. There are two always charged in the hall.Dear maam, you frighten me more and more, cries Honour: sure your laship would not venture to fire it off! I had rather run any chance than your laship should do that.Why so? says Sophia, smiling; would not you, Honour, fire a pistol at any one who should attack your virtue?To be sure, maam, cries Honour, ones virtue is a dear thing, especially to us poor servants; for it is our livelihood, as a body may say: yet I mortally hate fire-arms; for so many accidents happen by them.Well, well, says Sophia, I believe I may ensure your virtue at a very cheap rate, without carrying any arms with us; for I intend to take horses at the very first town we come to, and we shall hardly be attacked in our way thither. Lookee, Honour, I am resolved to go; and if you will attend me, I promise you I will reward you to the very utmost of my power.
This last argument had a stronger effect on Honour than all the preceding. And since she saw her mistress so determined, she desisted from any further dissuasions. They then entered into a debate on ways and means of executing their project. Here a very stubborn difficulty occurred, and this was the removal of their effects, which was much more easily got over by the mistress than by the maid; for when a lady hath once taken a resolution to run to a lover, or to run from him, all obstacles are considered as trifles. But Honour was inspired by no such motive; she had no raptures to expect, nor any terrors to shun; and besides the real value of her clothes, in which consisted a great part of her fortune, she had a capricious fondness for several gowns, and other things; either because they became her, or because they were given her by such a particular person; because she had bought them lately, or because she had had them long; or for some other reasons equally good; so that she could not endure the thoughts of leaving the poor things behind her exposed to the mercy of Western, who, she doubted not, would in his rage make them suffer martyrdom.
The ingenious Mrs. Honour having applied all her oratory to dissuade her mistress from her purpose, when she found her positively determined, at last started the following expedient to remove her clothes, viz., to get herself turned out of doors that very evening. Sophia highly approved this method, but doubted how it might be brought about. O, maam, cries Honour, your laship may trust that to me; we servants very well know how to obtain this favour of our masters and mistresses; though sometimes, indeed, where they owe us more wages than they can readily pay, they will put up with all our affronts, and will hardly take any warning we can give them; but the squire is none of those; and since your laship is resolved upon setting out to-night, I warrant I get discharged this afternoon. It was then resolved that she should pack up some linen and a night-gown for Sophia, with her own things; and as for all her other clothes, the young lady abandoned them with no more remorse than the sailor feels when he throws over the goods of others, in order to save his own life.